Cantor Noah Rachels
Cantor Rachels joined Mosaic Law Congregation in July 2023.
Cantor Rachels aspired to be an opera singer for most of his adult life, while in parallel, he “accidentally” developed a career in nonprofit
fundraising and administration, holding roles of increasing responsibility with such notable performing arts and higher education institutions as the Orchestra of St. Luke's, Carnegie Hall, Columbia Business School, and Barnard College.
Since 2003, when he began singing professionally in synagogue choirs, he had thought many times about training to become a cantor, but always managed to talk himself out of it. While helping to care for his gravely ill mother in 2018, however, he witnessed both the awesome power of music to provide comfort and peace, and the importance of human connection during lifecycle events. These experiences—combined with the example set by the inimitable Cantor Jacob Ben-Zion “Jack” Mendelson—helped inspire him to consider the cantorate anew and enroll at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in 2019.
While a student in the H.L. Miller Cantorial School at JTS, Cantor Rachels served as cantorial intern at Congregation Ansche Chesed in New York City under the mentorship of Cantor Natasha Hirschhorn. In 2022, he served as guest hazzan officiating the High Holy Day services at Congregation Ahavath Achim in Colchester, Connecticut. Also in 2022, Cantor Rachels was recognized with the Cantors Assembly Richard Briskin Cantor-in-Residence Award, which entailed spending a weekend in residency at Temple Beth El in Rochester, New York.
Other awards and prizes during his studies included: the Cantors Assembly Hazzan Elaine Shapiro Scholarship; the Dr. Leonard E. Field and Beatrice E. Field Award for excellence in nusach studies; the Anna Grossman Sherman Award in Hebrew for excellence in the study of Hebrew language; the Anonymous Prize for excellence in a musicological project; the Cantors Assembly Hazzan Richard M. and Mary L. Berlin Scholarship; the H.L. Miller Fellowship; the Cantors Assembly Alumni Award in Memory of Hazzan Max Wohlberg; the Cantors Assembly Foundation Hazzan Melvin Luterman Scholarship; the Rose S. Rovine Prize in Liturgical Music; and the Cantors Assembly Hazzan Nancy Abramson Scholarship.
Outside the classroom, as part of a 400-hour unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training in summer 2021, Cantor Rachels worked as a chaplain within the Palliative Care Supportive Services unit of JASA, a social services agency, where he provided spiritual care to a diverse array of clients.
As a professional singer, Cantor Rachels has been heard at Park Avenue Synagogue, Congregation Rodeph Sholom, and the Reform Temple of Forest Hills (all in NYC), and he has been featured as a soloist in concerts presented by Harrison Friends of the Opera, Light Opera of New York, Canto de las Americas, the Maestro Pier Miranda Ferraro Concert Series, and New York Dramatic Voices.
Born and raised among the Catskill Mountains of New York State, Cantor Rachels earned a bachelor of arts degree in music from Moravian College (now, Moravian University) in Pennsylvania and studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He received his cantorial ordination and master of sacred music degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, and he continues to study singing with Anthony Laciura. Cantor Rachels, his wife Amy, their daughter, and their cat are enjoying being in Sacramento.
When not working, studying, practicing singing, or playing with his daughter, Cantor Rachels enjoys the New York Times crossword, cooking, recordings of historic singers and cantors, and fantasizing about working on a farm in Iceland. And if you are a fan of the game show, Jeopardy!, you might even have seen Cantor Rachels on television some years back!